It’s a challenging time to be a small business owner and it’s likely to remain so

Being a small business owner has always been difficult, but 2020 and 2021 have taken the challenge to a whole new level of difficulty. The covid pandemic has left small business owners all over the UK, and indeed the world, wondering how to continue and in some cases, considering if it’s worth the effort.

It really has been an incredible period since late March 2020 and many of our micro and small business owner friends have not made it this far. Many fought valiantly to stay afloat but the length of time combined with a lack of support have ended their small business dreams.

Most didn’t have the resources of the big players. Many didn’t have the support or visibility they needed but they were told that they’re the backbone of the economy, so someone, somewhere was paying attention …right!? Given that micro businesses alone are 97% of the business population in the UK (5.7 million of the 6 million businesses), the economy could take a terrible beating if government is not paying attention.

The small business climate in the UK has been especially difficult to understand and survive given the issues around coronavirus support packages and the exclusion of large swathes of the small and micro business population from effective support. As each sector returns to trading, albeit with restricted operations in some cases, the nirvana of our pre-covid existence looks more and more achievable, even if it could yet be some distance away.

There is light at the end of the tunnel and for a change, it’s not the headlamp of an oncoming train.

The vaccine rollout in the UK has been demonstrably successful so far, and as the fully-vaccinated proportion of the population grows steadily, the likelihood of another full lockdown shrinks a tiny bit more each week.

There will be setbacks along the way. Localised outbreaks are bound to happen. Lockdowns could yet be needed again, but each day that we ease cautiously toward the lifting of all restrictions, we see a brighter light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Being a small business owner has always been a challenge and it will remain so, but hopefully no longer with the difficulty level turned up to 11.

We can and must stay optimistic about the future but we must also be realistic. It is likely to remain a difficult landscape to operate in. A great many small business owners have had to take on levels of debt that will be challenging to manage and pay back over the coming years. Some businesses will manage to do so, but the sad fact remains that some might not.

If micro businesses and small businesses are to survive and thrive beyond the pandemic, some things have become crystal clear. Despite being the backbone of the economy, micro businesses and small businesses must support each other. It’s clear that governmental support cannot be relied upon. Self-supporting communities will be required where small and micro businesses can trade and do business with each other.

Buying local will and must become part and parcel of everyone’s life, whether it’s business-to-business or for consumers.

Banks and government agencies must take a pragmatic approach to loan repayments and tax burdens to avoid sending small business owners to the wall due to cash flow, especially if further, smaller, localised and periodic lockdowns become necessary again.

Some of our biggest challenges are behind us but some of them are ahead of us. Let’s pull together and make sure as many small and micro businesses as possible survive.